(Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda)
After a long pause don Juan suddenly turned to me and said that in order to find the proper place to rest all I had to do was to cross my eyes. He gave me a knowing look and in a confidential tone told me that I had done precisely that when I was rolling on his porch, and thus I had been capable of finding two spots and their colors. He let me know that he was impressed by my accomplishment.
“I really don’t know what I did, ” I said.
“You crossed your eyes, ” he said emphatically. “That’s the technique; you must have done that, although you don’t remember it.”
Don Juan then described the technique, which he said took years to perfect, and which consisted of gradually forcing the eyes to see separately the same image. The lack of image conversion entailed a double perception of the world; this double perception, according to don Juan, allowed one the opportunity of judging changes in the surroundings, which the eyes were ordinarily incapable of perceiving.
Don Juan coaxed me to try it. He assured me that it was not injurious to the sight. He said that I should begin by looking in short glances, almost with the corners of my eyes. He pointed to a large bush and showed me how. I had a strange feeling, seeing don Juan’s eyes taking incredibly fast glances at the bush. His eyes reminded me of those of a shifty animal that cannot look straight.
We walked for perhaps an hour while I tried not to focus my sight on anything. Then don Juan asked me to start separating the images perceived by each of my eyes. After another hour or so I got a terrible headache and had to stop.
“Do you think you could find, by yourself, a proper place for us to rest?” he asked.
I had no idea what the criterion for a “proper place” was. He patiently explained that looking in short glances allowed the eyes to pick out unusual sights. “Such as what?” I asked.
“They are not sights proper, ” he said. “They are more like feelings. If you look at a bush or a tree or a rock where you may like to rest, your eyes can make you feel whether or not that’s the best resting place.”
I again urged him to describe what those feelings were but he either could not describe them or he simply did not want to. He said that I should practice by picking out a place and then he would tell me whether or not my eyes were working.
At one moment I caught sight of what I thought was a pebble which reflected light. I could not see it if I focused my eyes on it, but if I swept the area with fast glances I could detect a sort of faint glitter. I pointed out the place to don Juan.
It was in the middle of an open unshaded flat area devoid of thick bushes. He laughed uproariously and then asked me why I had picked that specific spot. I explained that I was seeing a glitter.
“I don’t care what you see, ” he said. “You could be seeing an elephant. How you feel is the important issue.”
I did not feel anything at all. He gave me a mysterious look and said that he wished he could oblige me and sit down to rest with me there, but he was going to sit somewhere else while I tested my choice.
I sat down while he looked at me curiously from a distance of thirty or forty feet away. After a few minutes he began to laugh loudly. Somehow his laughter made me nervous. It put me on edge. I felt he was making fun of me and I got angry. I began to question my motives for being there. There was definitely something wrong in the way my total endeavor with don Juan was proceeding. I felt that I was just a pawn in his clutches.
Suddenly don Juan charged at me, at full speed, and pulled me by the arm, dragging me bodily for ten or twelve feet. He helped me to stand up and wiped some perspiration from his forehead. I noticed then that he had exerted himself to his limit. He patted me on the back and said that I had picked the wrong place and that he had had to rescue me in a real hurry, because he saw that the spot where I was sitting was about to take over my entire feelings. I laughed. The image of don Juan charging at me was very funny. He had actually run like a young man. His feet moved as if he were grabbing the soft reddish dirt of the desert in order to catapult himself over me.
I had seen him laughing at me and then in a matter of seconds he was dragging me by the arm.
After a while he urged me to continue looking for a proper place to rest. We kept on walking but I did not detect or “feel” anything at all. Perhaps if I had been more relaxed I would have noticed or felt something. I had ceased, however, to be angry with him. Finally he pointed to some rocks and we came to a halt. “Don’t feel disappointed, ” don Juan said. “It takes a long time to train the eyes properly.”
I did not say anything. I was not going to be disappointed about something I did not understand at all. Yet, I had to admit that three times already since I had begun to visit don Juan I had become very angry and had been agitated to the point of being nearly ill while sitting on places that he called bad.
“The trick is to feel with your eyes, ” he said. “Your problem now is that you don’t know what to feel. It’ll come to you, though, with practice.”
“Perhaps you should tell me, don Juan, what I am supposed to feel.”
“No one can tell you what you are supposed to feel. It is not heat, or light, or glare, or color. It is something else.”
“Can’t you describe it?”
“No. All I can do is give you the technique. Once you learn to separate the images and see two of everything, you must focus your attention in the area between the two images. Any change worthy of notice would take place there, in that area.”
“What kind of changes are they?”
“That is not important. The feeling that you get is what counts. Every man is different. You saw glitter today, but that did not mean anything, because the feeling was missing. I can’t tell you how to feel. You must learn that yourself.”